Everything you need to know to create the ultimate capsule wardrobe

Posted by
Harriet Hall
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A capsule wardrobe is the answer to all our dressing woes. If we perfected the capsule wardrobe, hours could be sliced-off our morning routine, no longer would we pour over our bursting-at-the-seams chest of drawers screaming 'I've got nothing to wear'; all our sartorial problems would swiftly evaporate into thin, rose-scented air. 

The capsule wardrobe has been saving the time of fashion conscious women for decades. It first came about in 1935, when the sportswear designer Vera Maxwell created her 'Weekend Wardrobe'. The collection introduced the idea of purchasing a few essential, timeless separates that can be combined in multiple ways, across multiple seasons and injected with additional seasonal trend pieces. 

Capsule wardrobes are ideal for work, play and travel. 

Roberta Benteler, founder and CEO of luxury online shopping destination and one of the industry’s best e-commcerce sites, Avenue 32, talked us through how to create the ultimate capsule wardrobe. 

The style guru guided us through the key pieces every woman should buy now and wear for years to come for a range of budgets and body types, outfits and occasions.

1) Pick a colour scheme

“Select a colour palette,” says Benteler. “The items should be interchangeable so that will make it a lot easier.”

Benteler recommends to go for either a cool palette of black, navy, grey and white tones or a warmer palette of shades of beige, brown and khaki. “I've gone for a cooler palette because I have a cooler complexion so it suits my skin and my hair,” she says, “and a warm colour palette might wash me out.”

Whatever your preference, stick to your scheme. That way, pieces can be mixed-and-matched as you so wish, and the sentence 'I can't find anything that goes with this skirt', will be a distant memory.

2) Consider your body shape

Only you can know what styles make you feel great. Benteler describes her own figure as having a small waist and wider hips, so likes to choose items that complement that- such as a big shoulder or cap sleeves. She also shops for high-waisted skinny jeans which flatter her shape and make her feel confident.

“Don't buy shapes just because they're on trend,” she says. Think of yourself first and trends second. “If you buy something that you feel flatters you, you will want to wear it time and again, so it's really important to figure out what shapes you think suit you.”

4) Choose classic shapes and patterns

A capsule wardrobe should be timeless, first and foremost. Do not select garments that will be out of style within a year. It can be tempting to purchase trend pieces but these should be saved for the fun items you use to intersperse with your capsule pieces. Keep your capsule items simple, classic and chic.

Benteler says, “it's very important to choose classic shapes and patterns, because the idea is to build up a collection of essentials to wear over and over again.”

She recommends a good pair of skinny jeans, a nicely cut blazer and a classically cut coat as essential inclusions in the capsule wardrobe:  “Any of these really non-seasonal shapes that you will want to wear for a number of years.”

5) Pick the best quality pieces

“Spend on the capsule, save on trend items,” says Benteler. When it comes to creating a capsule wardrobe, Benteler advises people to shop up. Don't buy the cheapest version, buy the best version. “If it's within budget,” she says, “I would say go for the most expensive pieces.”

Select wool over acrylic and cashmere over wool and pick more special pieces - because these will be worn time and time again as a base for all outfits, so you want them to look sharp and not wear out. Save your cheaper purchases for the fun, on trend garments that you probably won't keep for years, and invest in some special, more luxurious pieces for the capsule collection.

If you're strapped for cash, Benteler advises visiting designer discount sites such as The Outnet, or keeping an eye out for sample sales, where you can buy quality pieces at a lower price.

6) Consider your lifestyle

Chances are, if you're a young professional, your capsule wardrobe will be quite different from your friend who works from home. Only select pieces you know that will work for all the different parts of your day. If you're constantly running around, for example, a tight pencil skirt might not be the one for you. 

Extra tips...

Divide your wardrobe - If you can, Benteler recommends you separate your capsule wardrobe from the rest of your clothes. This way, when you're getting ready for work or to go out, you can easily select the key pieces you need and save time. 

The shoes - If you're limited with your budget, go for three essential pairs of shoes: some great all-weather boots, a pair of simple black pumps and a nice smart flat or pair of heels, depending on your preference (Benteler prefers flats).

Balance the numbers - Try to make sure you don't end up with a load of one item and hardly any of another, Benteler advises. Buy three shirts, three skirts and three great pairs of trousers, for example. 

Notice your formula - Try to analyse yourself. if you notice that you usually know what top you want to wear but struggle with bottoms, make sure you shop bottoms when you go out. This will help with balancing your wardrobe.